These last few blog posts are all going to come around the same time (near the end of the semester, how surprising), so you can probably guess why.
Anyway, I went to an international luncheon back in mid-April where the speaker was focused on an issue at hand: the role of globalization in the shanty towns of Brazil. Most of us can picture it from action and adventure movies: locals living in shacks built so close together they merge into complex structures, dirty slums and alleyways winding through the favela which can only be navigated by those raised there.
It’s unfortunate that these communities are so often overlooked by municipal governments. In fact, the speaker herself said that Brazilians frequently consider favelas as part of the landscape-something to look at but not to visit. How are they to raise standards of living if complacency dominates?
But here’s the issue: attention is being given to these regions by good people for the wrong reasons.
Let me preface this with saying that globalization is a wonderful phenomenon that is raising the standard of living for many, many deserving people around the world. It is not to say, however, that it doesn’t have its unintentional consequences.
The problem takes root in our culture: our worldview is shaped largely by what we see on television because we’re not all fortunate enough to go experience many diverse cultures firsthand. Instead, people travel via Hollywood which shows a particular worldview that happens to sell the best; that worldview tends to be one of the most romanticized and exaggerated.
Hollywood’s view of Brazil is dominated by favelas which are embraced as a part of Brazilian culture since they’re showcased as the birthplace of most of Brazil’s popular culture. However, inhabitants of these regions are considered disposable and 2nd class citizens.
Since the population is largely apathetic, the state tends to displace thousands of people for the purposes of hosting mega events like the Winter Olympics and World Cup.
If the outrage over this mistreatment isn’t vocalized by the native population, then we hold the responsibility as the global community to raise awareness about the inequality that persists in Brazil and pressure the state into addressing the topic.
However, the world’s focus isn’t on how to improve situation but rather to experience the inequality and return home. Poverty is more of a comfortable experience than the harsh reality of life. The speaker summarized the goal of tourists: explore favelas with the intention of getting to know the real Brazil (whatever that means) in order to better understand the culture.
And thus, the favela touring industry is born.
However, the timeline of events isn’t necessarily so straightforward. The necessity of favela tours and rising frequency of hosing mega events is more of a feedback loop with origins that as unclear as whether the chicken or the egg came first.
And now that the call to action is over, I want to address an equally depressing topic: Jaci’s leaving! 🙁
I’m sure you can already tell by now, but we are all going to miss you so much! You were a friend to all of us, and personally I thought that you were incredibly understanding when I confessed that I was having trouble staying active in an international group due to my anxieties concerning school and social events.
You made the Global Engagement Program an even more inclusive and bright community, and we are indebted to your service. Wherever you go, you will make that organization brighter and better.
¡Muchísimas gracias por todo lo que haces, Jaci! Espero que superes todos de tus obstáculos futuros y que tengas mucho éxito.
P.S. Welcome to the family, Bushra!